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Birthstones Brim With Luck and Lore

Throughout the ages, many cultures developed traditions of honoring different stones for the months of the year, the signs of the zodiac, and for various other reasons, such as healing and protection. The list of birthstones commonly used today was adopted way back in 1912 by the American National Association of Jewelers, which later evolved into Jewelers of America. With a few exceptions, the list has remained unchanged.

January/Garnet
Garnet is found in every color except blue, including the dark red Bohemian garnet, green tsavorite garnet, raspberry pink rhodolite garnet, and orange malaya garnet. Legend holds that Noah hung a large garnet in the ark for illumination.

February/Amethyst
Amethyst is a variety of quartz and ideally is a deep medium purple with rose-colored flashes. Amethyst symbolizes peace, protection and tranquility.

March/ Aquamarine
The ideal color of aquamarine is a pastel sea blue. In ancient times, the stone was said to aid seafarers, and is an excellent gift for sailors or one who takes frequent cruises. It is a universal symbol of youth, hope and health.

April/Diamond
The name diamond comes from the Greek word adamas, meaning unconquerable - suggesting the eternity of love. Discovered about 2,500 years ago in India, the ancients believed they were splinters from the stars.

May/Emerald
The most prized color of emerald is pure grass green. Emeralds are often characterized by a garden of inclusions trapped within, known as the jardin, because under magnification you will see all sorts of lovely patterns resembling foliage in a garden. A flawless, clear emerald is very rare and is usually found in only small sizes.

June/Pearl or Moonstone
Cultured pearls, which come in a wide range of colors, are judged by their luster, or orient, and their size. Pearls have been recognized as the emblem of modesty, chastity and purity. Moonstone is sometimes used as an alternative birthstone for June, since it physically resembles some pearls.

July/Ruby
Ruby, like sapphire, is a variety of corundum and only exists as a true red in color. The finest color is a vivid, almost pure spectral red. Many believed rubies possessed an inner flame that burned eternally.

August/Peridot
Peridot should be a lively lime green, without a brownish or olive cast. The child of volcanic action, tiny peridot crystals are sometimes combed from the black sands of Hawaii. The most important source of peridot in the world is the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation near Globe, Ariz., where it is mined by native Americans.

September/Sapphire
A variety of corundum, sapphire comes in all colors except red (the red variety being known as ruby), but is especially popular in deep blue. Ancient priests and sorcerers honored sapphire above all gems. Ancients believed the Ten Commandments were written on a sapphire tablet.

October/Opal or Tourmaline
White opal has a white or light body color with flashes of many colors. Black opal has a black, dark blue, dark green or gray body color with vivid flashes of color such as red, pink and bright green. Opal has symbolized hope, innocence and purity through the ages. Sometimes tourmaline, which spans the spectrum from red to violet, is used as a birthstone for October.

November/Topaz or Citrine
Most people think of topaz as a transparent golden yellow gemstone. However, this gemstone occurs colorless as well as orange-yellow, red, honey-brown (dark sherry), light green, blue and pink. Orange-red imperial topaz and pink colors are rare and most valuable. Citrine is often used an alternative to topaz because it appears in many of the same colors as topaz.

December/Tanzanite, Turquoise or Blue Zircon
The vibrant violet-blue gem, tanzanite was recently awarded the honor of being added to the traditional list of birthstones, joining turquoise and zircon as the commemorative gems for December. Tanzanite was discovered near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in the mid-1960s. This African country is still the only place on earth where this gem is found. Tanzanite has earned a large fan base due to its rarity and breathtaking color.